She started at that corner of the wall. That bottom corner, down by the coils of fibre sloughed from the carpet, and the slew of soil that rained from the potted plants. A rubber plant, there was, and another – she couldn’t remember the name – and the cats trowelled soil over the edges like children on a beach.
She started at that corner of the wall, with her carefully filed nails. She picked at the tomb of paper that held the woodchip in, thinking of wasps’ nests, fragile in their dark fastnesses in the attic above. She liberated a chip and held it in her fingertips, and examined it. It was a pale and sad reminder of wood, too far removed from life to be linked to trees.
She dropped it, and thought of the dropping of blood. She thought of that slow, insistent dripping, the darkness of menstruation. The surprise of it on the bathroom floor at a time when she thought she was safe.
She dug her fingernails into another poor constricted swelling on the wall, and another, and another. She counted them – the blisters she had opened and the chips that she had set free. They lay on the carpet like tiny corpses – like the sad and swaddled bodies of the dead lying cast aside after a natural disaster.
She thought of the aching pain, and the bewildered fear that had set up home in her chest. She thought of kneeling on the bathroom floor with her head down and her eyes closed, and the inevitable drip of blood from between her legs. Tap, tap, tap, like the knocking of a tiny soul.
There were woodchips scattered on the floor, and too many scratched-away blisters to count. The wall must be clear. The wall must be clear… The wall must be clear. It was easy to take down the paintings and stack them like children queuing for the school nurse. Easy to pick, pick, pick, and to let the slivers of wood fall to the floor.
She thought of that odd and aching expulsion – that gratifying, horrifying feeling, and the blood on the bathroom floor. She thought of the advice of the doctor – flush it down the toilet. Somewhere in that mess on the floor there had been a life. She thought of chicks, their cocooning eggshells smashed and their bodies anointed with yolk.
She wanted a funeral.
Her funeral was a shoebox at the end of the garden, and a tree tenderly chosen, that would grow and grow in fertile soil.
The thought of trees brought tears to her eyes as she looked at the scattered chips on the floor and her ragged nails, and all the potential of life brought to nothing. She rested her head on the excised wall and the pressure of its scarred skin kissed her forehead with cold.